Employment relationships are complicated things.
The longer one stays with an employer the deeper the connections can be and the harder it can be to leave, even when it is obvious that a change is needed.
Employees leave for all kinds of reasons.
Today, I’d like to talk about voluntary departures, the potential impact on interpersonal relationships and how the winding down process can be handled more effectively.
One obvious situation of voluntary departure is retirement and, as a natural evolution in the employment cycle it is relatively easy to accept.
A second situation is when a younger employee gives notice and that can be more emotionally complicated.
Both cases present common challenges for an employer.
There is the loss of the employee’s knowledge and skills, the potential drop in productivity during the wind down period, and, the personal impact of losing a familiar working relationship.
From an operational perspective, the employer’s top priority is likely to be maintaining the flow of business activities both during and after the employee’s departure phase.
Having a clear, efficient plan for backfilling, hiring and/or training a replacement is critical. Ideally the departing employee is part of that process so that the transfer of knowledge is more complete and disruption to work activities is minimized.
Once an employee has decided to leave there is always the potential that they will disengage and that can easily translate into lower productivity, even in those who have been good performers.
As an employer, it is wise to be prepared for that shift and try to minimize the effects.
It makes good business sense to tap into the employee’s knowledge and understanding of their job while they are still employed so why not involve them directly in the transition process?
Doing so will send the message that their input is valued and appreciated. That may just be enough to keep their motivation up until their last day.
Knowing the right approach for ending the employment relationship is trickier.
Whether the employee is changing jobs or moving into retirement, the way their exit is handled will have a lasting impression on everyone.
Much depends on the reasons for the departure. It can be as simple as an employee moving away for personal reasons or it can be as complicated as an employee leaving because they feel their talents are not appreciated or well utilized.
The employer’s response to an employee who has chosen to leave, regardless of the reason, can be quite revealing.
Some employers are able to accept the natural cycle of staff changeover and be professional to the end.
For others it may feel like a personal rejection triggering negative behaviour that is completely counter productive to the situation.
People who change jobs are reminded to not burn bridges with bad behaviour because each employer is a potential reference for their work performance.
Doesn’t the same rule apply to employers? Of course it does because employees make their own assessments which can be strongly influenced by how their exit was handled.
The reality is that employees will come and go. So why not take the high road and consider each one as an ambassador for you and your business?
The ideal approach is to be a consistently good employer—one who sincerely supports, engages and appreciates all employees, whether they are just coming on board, or have one foot out the door.